The Kentucky Wildcats football team has been resurrected over the last handful of seasons, largely in part due to recruiting and player development led by head coach Mark Stoops.
While Stoops had a slow start to his tenure in the Bluegrass state, he’s reached a bowl game a bowl game in three consecutive seasons while clinching a fourth-straight on Saturday afternoon following the team’s win over UT-Martin.
Stoops’ overall record with the Wildcats is actually below .500, sitting at 42-44 with a regular season finale against Louisville next Saturday and then of course their bowl game after Christmas. Kentucky’s record against the SEC is far worse under Stoops, as the Wildcats’ stand 20-36 against SEC teams to-date, but that’s improved to 16-16 over the last four seasons.
So, at best, Stoops could be 44-44 overall at Kentucky after seven seasons at Kentucky. Is a .500 record in the SEC good enough to land the head coaching job at Florida State, a school that won a national title just five years ago?
The 10-3 season carries a lot of weight, not to mention how far Stoops has brought this program after Joker Phillips nuked it. Willie Taggart did similar damage in his tumultuous tenure in Tallahassee, so perhaps Stoops could have a similar rebuild that gets the Noles back into the national spotlight.
Stoops has long been connected to the Florida State program, as he once was the team’s defensive coordinator from 2009-2012. He also has a reputation for recruiting well, and Florida is one of the highest-regarded states in terms of elite athletes.
Today, reports emerged that Stoops met with Florida State in Cincinnati recently, but Stoops ultimately pulled himself out of consideration for the job.
Following today’s win over UT-Martin, Stoops addressed the latest rumors and his commitment to Kentucky.
“I’m not going to get into specifics, but I just...Florida State...I had a great experience there,” Stoops said. “Afforded me the opportunity to be here. I love it here. Been very fortunate. I have great administration. Dr. Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart have been so good to me. The fans, our players, recruits...this is where my heart is.
“This is where I want to be.”
Stoops added that he wanted to put the Florida State talk to bed so recruits wouldn’t worry if he’d be in Lexington next season.
“I just felt like it was...I was answering too many questions with recruits,” Stoops said. “Just felt like it was time to answer those questions directly and be honest with them, and this is where I want to be, so this is what I want to do.”
That certainly sounds like a coach who isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but as Kentucky continues to have success and reach new levels, more schools will come calling. Thankfully, it sounds like the Wildcats won’t have to worry about Florida State this year.